PICTURE: BAE's first production Nimrod MRA4 gets RAF livery

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The UK Royal Air Force's first of nine Nimrod MRA4 surveillance aircraft has landed back at BAE Systems' Woodford production site in Cheshire after receiving its service colours.

The fourth MRA4 to fly, following three earlier development examples that are not expected to be converted for operational use, aircraft PA4 made its debut sortie from Woodford on 10 September.

Powered by four Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofans, the aircraft returned to the site on 30 September after having its RAF colours applied by Air Livery at Norwich airport.

Now carrying the squadron marking "A" and registered as ZJ514, PA4 will undergo a series of flight acceptance tests from Woodford, which BAE says will "prove that all the aircraft systems are operating as they should". It will then be flown to the company's Warton facility in Lancashire to support training activities.

 
© BAE Systems
Aircraft PA4 has returned to Woodford in RAF markings

ZJ514 will be delivered to the RAF's Nimrod main operating base at Kinloss in Scotland next February, where it will replace the service's current Nimrod MR2s. A total of four MRA4s will arrive at Kinloss before the type achieves its in-service date in December 2010. Operations of the MR2 will cease on 31 March the following year.

Separately, Thales UK has completed modifications to Nimrod aircrew synthetic training aids equipment (ASTA) at Kinloss to support crew conversion activities for the new-generation aircraft.

 
© Thales UK
Upgraded simulators will support crew conversion onto the MRA4

The company, which has upgraded training equipment delivered since 2004 to match the MRA4's production configuration and add characteristics identified during flight testing, expects to receive a further contract before year-end to implement further modifications to the ASTA infrastructure. This includes two dynamic simulators, two flight training devices, two rear crew trainers and a part-task trainer, according to Thales.